It’s obvious that Gmail’s Inbox Tabs are impacting digital advertising, but what does that have to do with Spendbot?
I was with a group of digital entrepreneurs talking about digital marketing this morning. The sophistication of digital marketing tools goes far beyond bidding for clicks these days, with real-time two-sided market bidding for placements, automated A/B testing to determine which ads work (so the future may be less about being a great designer and more about mastering data), and ad re-targeting (in case you’re wondering why you keep seeing the same banner ad for that obscure site you visited last week). These capabilities raise a number of issues like attribution (whose ad really caused you to buy and to what extent?) and privacy (see my previous blog post) and efficiency (I don’t want to see ads except for the ones I want to see).
As a (the) leader in digital advertising, Google has created its Chrome browser, and Google+, and Gmail products that aim to help advertisers deliver just the ads consumers want to see. Google, and other companies in this space, are hugely profitable because advertisers don’t want to show (and pay for) an ad for something that you won’t want to buy, and are willing to pay for that filtering. And one of the features that Google just rolled out is its Gmail Inbox Tabs. This includes a Promotions tab, which segregates out newsletters and commercial email- anything with an unsubscribe link.
This creates a couple problems. The first is that some potentially important information may go unseen. Those of us who receive hundreds of emails a day have a habit of just mass deleting emails we didn’t open (I generally at least look at the subject lines), and if they go into the spam folder- or Promotions?- then they’re likely not ever even seen. If these emails have real information- such as an invite- that could be a big problem.
The second problem is that some advertisers believe they have JUST THE RIGHT THING for some consumers, and go to great lengths to figure out how to fine tune their message and newsletters to share that. And now, they may never even be seen.
There are ways to deal with these problems, but they create new concerns. For example, more people may opt to use Facebook for advertising. So Facebook will become more crowded with adverts and invites and notifications and… and then people will move somewhere else more “curated” and then… the mass of information will move from channel to channel before falling under its own weight, a bit like the Tower of Babel where everyone ends up confused, with more tabs and settings and unchangeable settings.
So back to my original question- what does all this have to do with Spendbot?
The answer is that the answer lies, in my opinion, in combining a keen eye for customer desires with intuitive and automatic personalization. Similar to my thoughts on privacy, I believe the customer needs to be in control, and know what they’re getting into, when they use a digital service. (I’d add error-proofing as well but customers have the ability to do that simply by leaving the service).
Some of us want to see all the great deals. Some of us want to see all the pictures of our kids. Some of us want to make sure we get all the invites. Some of us only want to know how much money we can spend today.
The goal of Spendbot is to provide the right amount of control so people can figure out their best plan (maybe some options, but not too many and only the best) to live their best life given the constraints on their finances; AP reported just last month that four out of five adult Americans will live in near-poverty at some point in their lifetime, so figuring out how to live one’s best life on tight finances will become a critical skill. And we aim to be the best at enabling it. And this means more than a bunch of offers… and less. But more on that later.
So what do you think? Do you like more filters on what you see, or less?